Estimating Global Biodiversity: The Role of Cryptic Insect Species

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

How many species are there on Earth and to what groups do these species belong? These fundamental questions span systematics, ecology, and evolutionary biology. Yet, recent estimates of overall global biodiversity have ranged wildly, from the low millions to the trillions. Insects are a pivotal group for these estimates. Insects make up roughly half of currently described extant species (across all groups), with ~1 million described species. Insect diversity is also crucial because many other taxa have species that may be unique to each insect host species, including bacteria, apicomplexan protists, microsporidian fungi, nematodes, and mites. Several projections of total insect diversity (described and undescribed) have converged on ~6 million species. However, these projections have not incorporated the morphologically cryptic species revealed by molecular data. Here, we estimate the extent of cryptic insect diversity. We perform a systematic review of studies that used explicit species-delimitation methods with multilocus data. We estimate that each morphology-based insect species contains (on average) 3.1 cryptic species. We then use these estimates to project the overall number of species on Earth and their distribution among major groups. Our estimates suggest that overall global biodiversity may range from 563 million to 2.2 billion species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-403
Number of pages13
JournalSystematic biology
Volume72
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023

Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • cryptic species
  • insects
  • species delimitation
  • species richness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics

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